Mar 08 2010

Another Energy Scam

A Utah company, Manna of Utah, is planning on building a plant in Odessa MO that will, among other things, build generators for home use. I wrote recently about another home generator company, Bloom Box, cautioning against accepting corporate hype at face value. Bloom Box appears to be a legitimate generator, surrounded by some misleading hype. But the generators promised by Manna of Utah seem to take the company name seriously, promising energy from heaven.

The generator they plan to build was designed and patented by another company, Maglev Energy, Inc. They claim to be able to generate electricity with magnets. Here is their description of their technology:

A running prototype using a new way to control attract – repel forces generated by permanent and electromagnet interactions.  Our unique configuration and intellectual property manipulates these forces to apply its product towards useful work. With chip technology, laser measuring devices, and MagLev Energy, Inc. (MEI) developed proprietary algorithms, this prototype produces clean, renewable, and better power conversion ratios than fossil fuels.

Most skeptics should instantly recognize this description as an utter scam – we are in Dennis Lee and Orbo territory here. You simply cannot generate free energy by cleverly interacting magnets. This seems to be the perpetual free-energy deception – whether self-deception or conscious fraud.

Notice the attempt to dazzle with technology terms – wow, they use chip technology and lasers. That space-age (i.e. 1960s) technology.

They further claim that their generators use less fossil fuel than conventional generators – “or no fuel at all.” What seems to be the scam here is that they have a fancy generator they claim is more fuel efficient than a typical generator. This in itself is not an amazing claim. Generators can burn fossil fuel in an engine that uses the energy to rotate magnets inside a coil that generates an electrical current. There are cheap and basic generators and more sophisticated and expensive generators. Building an elaborate generator that shaves off a few percentage points of energy loss is nothing new or amazing.

Free energy scam often use conventional generators as a bait and switch. They produce a fancy looking generator that burns gasoline (or some other conventional fossil fuel) and claim a higher efficiency than what you can buy at Home Depot. But then they claim that the same technology that provides an incremental increase in efficiency can be extrapolated to produce energy with less and less fuel, until you have a device that uses no fuel at all. They can then show investors and politicians their conventional generator to back up their claims – hey, it’s actually making electricity. And of course they have a “prototype” of the free-energy version (which just needs a couple of tweaks).

There is of course the pesky problem of thermodynamics. You cannot make energy from nothing – there is no free lunch. Current generator technology is pushing up against the barrier of efficiency, and any gains at this point are going to be minimal and diminishing – approaching 100% efficiency asymptotically but never reaching it. The first law of thermodynamic says you can never surpass 100% efficiency (sometime called “over unity”), and the second law of thermodynamics says you cannot reach 100% efficiency (there is always something lost to entropy).

Maglev Energy promises consumers:

Reduction or elimination of home power bills – Using conventional fuels, an MEI generator will reduce home electric bills by 50% or more. When coupled with solar or wind, power bills can be completely eliminated.

Sure – burn fossil fuel and make your own electricity and you will reduce your electric bill. Duh. (That is the Bloom Box model.) But is it cost-effective? And where are you getting the fuel from. If you have natural gas being pumped into your house maybe you can decrease your electric bill while you increase your gas bill. Or will you need to bury a huge tank in your yard?

The last line is classic – “coupled with solar or wind” – right – and that doughnut is “part of this nutritious breakfast.” Of course, you could just install wind or solar, which themselves would have to be analyzed for cost-effectiveness.

The public’s attention has been focused recently on the monetary and environmental cost of energy, and “renewable” energies is a hot buzzword. It is no surprise that we are seeing an explosion of companies looking to make money off this fascination. We may be in the midst of an energy scam bubble.

Here’s a tip for the media – get a clue. The information is out there, just exercise some Google skilz before writing that gullible report on the latest scam.

And here’s a tip for politicians and investors – get a clue. Consult with an actual scientist before investing in the latest free-energy con. Politicians in Utah and Odessa are hoping to gain attention for being so environmentally responsible and forward-looking. But instead they will simply be the targets of a round of ridicule from those with a clue.

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